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When Freedom Falls (A Conflict Story)

In the not so distant future, news had been flashing ceaselessly on television screens around the world. For the first time nations shared a common ground. World leaders and others of importance were being killed indiscriminately. It was still unclear who was responsible but the west began looking to the east and the east to the west and tensions were high. Because of the widespread nature of the murders it wasn’t easy to point the heavy finger of blame in any particular direction. The killings were different each time and despite many militia and terrorist groups laying claim to the assassinations, the culprit was thought to still be on the loose. CIA, FBI, NSA and all the other lesser known government agencies had been searching for the killer or the group offering him the opportunities. The terrorist cells responsible were particularly difficult to place because they seemed to have no real motive. There was no political statement made and no payments demanded. Many terrorist groups throughout the world were claiming the killings as their own but their claims were always found to be without merit.

President Philip Owen had been stirred from his bed as new news was emerging of yet another death.

“You must come immediately,” said the emotionless voice over the telephone. His entire body leapt from sleep to wake in cold shakes. He looked to his wife Jackie lying beside him. The phone was still buzzing on the night stand so he switched it off and without turning on a light he left his wife sleeping and made his way to the Oval Office, pulling a green sweatshirt over his pyjamas to try to make himself more presentable at such an ungodly hour.

Inside the Oval Office a member of his staff had already switched the television on in anticipation. A news report was being carried out by a young journalist wearing a long black coat and a smug expression. President Owen had seen his face so often recently as he kept the world up to date with the exploits of the ‘Chaos Killer’. He was an American reporter named Jaimya Van Hols and he always managed to get himself the exclusives on the murders. People were dying but he could only offer a small amount of care because it was causing his career to flourish. Words scrolled underneath which read ‘Chaos killer strikes in the Middle East’. His Highness Mohamar Al Sayeed Ambhad, a Saudi Arabian prince had been found hanging from the ceiling by his feet in his stately room in the palace. His throat had been cut in a ceremonial way and when his security happened upon his body, blood was still dripping from the wound. Someone had managed to make their way in and back out of his chambers with the swiftness of a cat but no money had been taken and there was no sign of a struggle. It almost seemed like he had gone willingly to his death. Amateur footage that had been taken earlier showed Mohamar hanging and his distraught attendants weeping close to his body.

Prince Mohamar Ambhad had been a pioneer in building relations between his country and the rest of the world. He was beloved by his people and respected by his counterparts in the west. He had no known enemies and his death would only hinder progress.

President Owen dropped his head into his hands and brushed his dark brown hair back, which was gathering more grey as the death toll increased. He reached out to take some water but his hand was met by an empty glass. Jackie appeared in the doorway still in her nightdress.

“Another killing?” she enquired. Philip looked back at the screen without replying. “They will find the one who is doing this.” Whether as a wife, mother or politician Jackie was always found the same way. Her optimism was why the American people loved her.

Philip had met Jackie at a political conference back when they were both starting out in their careers. Both of them hailed from old political families. Their parties were in direct opposition so when their union was announced the nation rejoiced because it meant that the entire spectrum of American politics was brought to the centre. Jackie’s grandfather had been a man of great influence in political circles but Jackie was not without her own astuteness. She was a caring wife and mother but also an excellent partner. They would be married twenty years the following Tuesday and Philip didn’t know how he would have handled the past few weeks without her.

Beside President Owen the faint buzz of the telephone sounded again. It was hardly noticeable to him because the ringing had begun to merge with all the thoughts calling out in his mind. It wasn’t until a commotion erupted in the corridor outside, as the Secret Service agents on staff began to discuss the latest killing that he finally answered.

Please hold for the Prime Minister, sir,” said the sweet voice of Emily Miller, the secretary for the Prime Minster of England. The voice was very familiar to Philip Owen although they had never met in person. She was always pleasant and he had come to know her so well over the telephone that he had sent her flowers of condolence when her mother had died recently.

Soon her sweet voice was replaced by that of the Prime Minister, Selena Samson. It was harsher and much less formal. “Another one Philip,” she greeted.

The President fell silent for a moment. “They will be lucky if they do find the killer. Already half of Europe is looking for him not to mention Australasia and still nothing concrete has turned up. He has been wanted by Interpol since the first.”

It had all began when Jacques Marlode, the prime minister of Belgium, was found in the bathrooms of The Hague. His body was trapped inside the window where the authorities believed he had been trying to escape his attacker. Jacques’ body was intact but his head had been taken cleanly. This was followed closely by Antonio Romero of Italy, who was discovered in the back seat of his silver car with diplomatic license plates showing no discernible cause of death. Arnold Grigsom, an Austrian official, had been murdered on his favourite golf course on the outskirts of Vienna. A cart carrying his body came crashing into the club house where guests were being served lunch. His torso had been torn and his heart removed. The assassinations had caused such an upset that the tabloids had dubbed the assassin ‘The Chaos Killer’. The latest killing in Saudi Arabia showed the assassin was continuing on his murderous rampage and they were no closer to finding him.

“He is definitely a professional. He has found his way into some of the most secure locations,” Selena was saying. “You and I seem to have been kept safe enough though. If I didn’t know any better I would swear it was one of us.”

President Owen immediately became defensive. No matter how late the hour, he would always be alert enough to return a challenge. “Something like this would never be funded on US coin!” he said. He had been particularly edgy lately.

Selena began to laugh, easing the tension. “Of course not. I’m just saying what others are thinking. Something has to be done so I’m calling an emergency summit. We will meet in the coming week or so.”

“A summit at this time?” He felt his people would feel safer if he remained in the United States at the present time.

“What else do you suggest? We wait around to see who is murdered next? None of us are safe you know. We had a break in at number eleven last week. We thought we had him at first when MI5 took him into custody. After hours of questioning it seems he was just an enthusiast.”

President Owen sighed. “I guess we have no choice.”

“My office will co-ordinate with yours,” said Selena. The President agreed and just when he was at the point of disconnecting the call she added. “Oh and Philip… Keep safe.”

President Owen’s eyes were immediately drawn back to the screen. Now the report was showing a large map of the earth with red markings on the places in the world that had been affected by the recent killings. South America and Canada had been touched but so far the U.S. had managed to evade attack.

“I don’t trust her,” Jackie was saying to her husband, stirring him from his swimming thoughts. “She is a little too ambitious. She would knife your back as soon as sit you on a pedestal.”

“I don’t trust her either but she is the Prime Minister of England and a good ally for us,” Philip assured.

“Doesn’t anyone think that having all the world leaders in one room together gives the assassin ample opportunity? It doesn’t seem likely he would make an attack in such a public area but you can’t be too careful.”

President Owen shrugged his shoulders. “Security will be very tight.”

Jackie Owen pursed her lips tightly. “I was in Saudi Arabia last month. I was on a diplomatic mission but it took me several hours to get through that security. This killer managed to get in and out without anyone noticing. Security doesn’t seem to concern him.”

Philip looked at his wife. He was used to having debates with her; it gave him well rounded opinions to take to his cabinet. They always argued over their political differences but this time she was genuinely concerned.

If I’m called I can’t refuse to go. We need to show that we are doing everything possible. Besides, it might draw the attacker out. With so many people there it might cause him to make a mistake.”

“I am going to make a few phone calls,” she told him. “I’ll send for some coffee. I think it’s going to be a long night.”

“Send for water instead,” Philip called after her pushing the empty glass away from him.

Philip Owen laid his hands on the desk that he had fought several years to sit behind and for the first time in his political career he had no idea what to do next as the world began to wake to the terrible news.

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Global Crisis: Human Trafficking (welcome to the AMIA)

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They say the world is becoming a smaller place each day. This rings true in the ears of our Anti Marki Intelligence agents who are currently fighting a war on human trafficking. A lesser known agency until recently, they are a small group of officials who are specialised in combating the Makri group – a global concern with widespread members through many different countries. With origins in New Zealand, the Makri spread from the Southern Hemisphere to Asia, from Asia they moved east across Europe. Finally they found settlement in Mexico and certain other parts of South America. The Makri are funded by trafficking of guns, drugs and young girls.

The Anti Marki Intelligence Agency was set up to wage war against the Makri. With support from the United States, England, Caledonia, Japan, Germany and France the success of the AMIA has been remarkable.

Chairman, Jurgen Kiertrich, stated, “We have seen a significant reduction in the amount of trafficking in the past few months. Several Makri cells have been closed down thanks to the effort of our agents.”

With success being declared in Europe, South America has a different view. A former Makri member, Antonio (name changed to protect identity), told us, “They may think they have closed the Makri cells down but for every one they stop another three will replace it.”

Antonio fled from the Makri after having spent ten years in Mexico as part of a drug cartel ring. Questions arose over the financial mismanagement of his group. Falling into debt Antonio’s family were threatened, forcing him to cross the border to the United States and seek refuge. He is currently under the protection of the AMIA.

Antonio’s story is a small piece of the fear that the Makri have caused. We met a girl by the name of Analice, a former call girl for the Makri. She was taken from her home in Ukraine. Her then partner, Kris Markoso, had promised her a new life in the United States where she would receive an education and fulfil her ambition of becoming a school teacher. Analice left her home, selling everything she owned for the venture and departed Ukraine in the middle of the night aboard a ship bound east.

“I was told that I was going aboard Liberty,” Analice told us. “I had heard so much about the ship. I was excited.”

However, Analice was not taken aboard Liberty (A ship that was custom built for the purposes of safe travel for refugees by King Fasio Sanchez of Spain). Instead she and twenty other girls were taken aboard a small fishing vessel. Her journey ended in Mexico. She never saw Kris again. Instead of an education Analice was forced into prostitution to pay for her keep in the slums of Mexico City. She and the other girls being told that the harder they worked and the more money they earned the more luxury they would receive. Analice assured us that this was true for most of the girls. Some were taken to exclusive villas and showered with gifts. Others were left alone to fight a growing drug addiction.

The AMIA have heard thousands of stories similar to that of Analice. Each day they re-home and protect thousands of girls – some as young as eight – from Makri forced labour.

“Our job is just beginning to show fruit,” said Agent Kiertrich. “We have a much larger fight ahead of us.”

Vowing to end the Makri group within the next five years some argue that the intentions of the AMIA are ambitious. The Marki are like a virus having spread to the four corners of the world. There is no knowing how far their membership base has reached. The Makri claim to hold powerful figures as their members. AMIA are not deterred by this. With determination and a dedicated team they will end the tyranny.

A Torrance Global Exclusive

Written by Jaimya Van Hols

Adapted from Conflict: Global Crisis

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Meet Nancy!

She’s a big girl! The heavily armoured tank used by the elite team known as Rogue Battalion. Tank Commander Ewan Freeman aka Bones hates to enter hostile territory without her!


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Taken from the highly anticipated graphic novel series written by Vivika Widow and created by Leo ST Paul.

Conflict: Murder in the Theater

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The play drew on towards it exciting conclusion. Alessa had been so engrossed in the ensemble below she left her seat and leaned over the balcony to get a closer look at the players. Her father had called something to her but the volume of the noise had drowned out his words.

On stage the players bellowed their scene. Their cries rang out over the pleading strings of the violins. Her heart was thumping with excitement. She clutched her hands tightly. Her palms were moist. The lights darkened further. The music broke to give way to tender notes of the piano. Alessa could have wept at the solemn song.

She felt a body slumping heavily against her. The blue ribbon that held her ringlets together was torn from her auburn locks. She looked back. She was face to face with her father. He was staring at her wide eyed, mouth open, dead. She didn’t scream. Her voice caught in her dry throat. Another body fell against her. This time it was her mother. All blood had drained from her face leaving a blue tint. She too was dead. In the doorway to the balcony was the silhouette of a man in a long coat. Alessa, stupefied, stared back at him like a young deer who had felt the deadly bullet of the hunter’s rifle. He raised his finger to his mouth and hushed her.

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Conflict: Traffic in the Night

The Southern Hemisphere war had left thousands of people homeless, without food and medicine. Sally Mainlock was no exception. When the elite Rogue Battalion force rescued the central town of Gainsby back from the rebel Makri group she had been split from the rest of her family. As Rogue Battalion kept the town secure, the refugees caught among the fighting tried their best to pick up their former lives. Sally held hope that she and her family would be reunited but they remained trapped elsewhere. She stopped herself thinking about. It made her too restless. She bedded down with the other refugees in the camp that had been created within the town hall. Rogue Battalion ushered in what supplies they could. Things like tea and biscuits had become scarce during the fighting but were now flowing as freely as they ever had.

Sally laid her cup beside her sleeping bag and munched her biscuit greedily. She had always been a slim girl but now she felt like a bag of bones. Her golden hair had lost all of its shine and it was thinning. Her hooked nose looked disproportional on her gaunt, drawn face.

Go away!” cried out on the other girls to a young man who had sat himself beside her.

Sally had seen the same young man try to engage other girls in conversation. They all had had the same response.

‘They’re being harsh on him,’ Sally surmised. ‘He’s probably just lonely like the rest of us.’

He stood again when the girl gave him nothing but derision. He raised his hands and walked away. He caught Sally’s gaze. He had a muscular physique that hadn’t faded with undernourishment. His skin was a warm brown. His handsome face was sun beaten. He sat down next to her.

Do you mind?” he asked, even though it was too late.

Don’t worry about the others,” said she. “We’re all sick with worry,” Sally explained.

He pulled his knees up to his chest and began to scan the room. A man in a Rogue Battalion uniform stationed at the main door looked over in their direction. Seeing no distress, he went back to his watch.

Where you a model before?” he asked.

Sally blushed. “Nothing like that.”

He raised his shoulders and examined her more closely. “You could be a model.”

Sally giggled. “I don’t think so.”

He sighed.”This is no place for us,” he stated.

We’re safe here,” Sally commented, referring to the presence of Rogue Battalion.

It’s a shame. I have a modelling agency in the States but I can’t get there unless I’m bringing models with me. No more camps, no more rations…”

Why can’t you go on your own?”

Diplomatic rules have come into play because of the war. New border checks mean I have to have models with me to prove the legitimacy of the agency.”

Sally felt sorry for him, having such a glamorous life waiting for him but being trapped in a war zone because of a technicality. “Hopefully you will find someone soon,” she said.

He examined her again. “You could have such a great career as a model. I know plenty of brands that would snap you up.” He seemed so sure.

Sally’s heart began to beat a little faster. “You really think so?” He nodded in agreement. “I would love to go to the States but my family are still missing,” she explained.

I was reading just the other day about families being reunited in the States. They have taken as many refugees as they could. That’s probably where your family are. Didn’t you see the news?” He spoke in such a matter of fact tone it suggested that he wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know.

Sally squealed. “My family are in the States?”

He was taken aback by her sudden enthusiasm. “I can’t say for certain but if they’re not here that’s where they will be.”

If I am one of your models will you take me there? Will you take me to my family?” she grabbed his shoulder excitedly.

I don’t know,” he hesitated.

I promise I will do my best for you! Anything you want, just help me find my family.”

The Rogue Battalion watchman looked over again. Sally was hushed. “You’ll have to calm down,” he warned. “You can’t let any of the Rogue Battalion find out.”

Why not?”

He lowered his voice. “They mean well but if they know that your family are abroad they will have to go through the proper channels which can take a long time.”

Sally was baffled. “All right.”

Meet me at the makeshift gates at eleven. Come alone and make sure no Rogue Battalion see.”

Sally was delirious with excitement at the prospect of her new life and seeing her family again. The hours seemed to slip by at a snails pace. Finally it reached a few minutes to eleven.

The Rogue Battalion guard had been changed.

I’ve left some things in my house. They aren’t valuable or anything but they are important to me. I would really like to have them.”

The guard looked out into the thick darkness. “Now?” he asked.

Sally sobbed. “I have nothing of my family! No photos, no memories and they’re missing.”

Most of the buildings nearby had been destroyed in bomb blasts. It wasn’t safe but the refugees weren’t prisoners either. The guard made up his mind.

Outside you’ll find three of my colleagues. Ask for Noah. I think you should at least wait until morning and he’ll probably agree with me. He’s off duty but you are free to ask for his help.”

Sally thanked him and slipped out into the night. Like she had been told, three members of Rogue Battalion had grouped together beside a camouflaged van. They were laughing. One, shorter than the other two, was stubbing out a cigarette. The largest, and by the style of his dress the most senior, was reminding his subordinates how detrimental to a persons health smoking can be.

Sally took her chance whilst they were distracted. She ran as quickly as she could to the makeshift fence that had been erected at the edge of town. It was now a few minutes past eleven. She hoped the modelling agent had waited for her. She despaired when she found no one was there to take her to her new life.

This way,” she heard a cry. A hole had been cut in the fence. The modelling agent had waited. His face was muddied now and he he had a deep scar down the left side that hadn’t been noticeable before. “Hurry!” he urged.

Sally cut her face on the sharp edges of the space she crawled through. She hoped the modelling agent wouldn’t notice.

A grey van pulled up. Three men piled out.

Wait? Where are we going exactly?”

Sally had been so consumed with glee before she hadn’t thought to ask. It only occurred to her then that she didn’t even know the modelling agents names.

One of the large men from the van gripped her chin. He moved her face side to side. The large double doors at the back of the van were pulled open. The floor was a metal grate. On the wall hung a black and white striped flag with a red rattle snake in the corner. That same symbol had been a token of fear for months before the outbreak of the war and for the duration. When she saw the Makri symbol she tried to scream. Her mouth was covered with a rough, spade like hand. She felt a needle plunge into her neck. Her unconscious body was bundled into the back of the van.

Makri were expert smugglers. Only they would boldly drive to the edge of Rogue Battalion territory and abduct young girls. Sally wasn’t going to an exciting life. She was being taken into the heart of a Makri stronghold in the deep underworld. She would never see her family again. Once in Makri hands she would never be found.


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Conflict; Death on the Coast


Pepya threw himself down in the shade of the forest. He had only reached the edge but he couldn’t take himself any further. He had a clear view of the coast line across the warm beach of East Africa.

He didn’t want to steal. He was an honest man and it was against his nature but his wife was sick and his children barely had one meal a day. ‘The General’ had come to his town and offered a lot of money to anyone willing to join his group and obtain resources by any means necessary. Pepya did it for his wife’s sake and for the sake of his children.

A merchant ship stopped at the Went Harbour. Men in dusty brown uniforms were loading and off loading. Pepya wandered closer. No one seemed to pay him any attention. He blended in. He lifted one of the boxes in the pretence that he was helping. The moment he touched it shouting erupted. He stepped back and raised his hands in the air. He didn’t understand what they were saying to him. He knocked one of the boxes over and emblazoned on the side was an image of four rearing horses. In the centre of those was the Admiral’s Seal.

Men in red uniform bore down on Pepya. They were more organised than the helpers. They were pointing heavy duty guns at him that only members of an elite force would have. Pepya tried to say apologise. One of the helpers tried arguing on his behalf but a soldier in red threw their elbow into his face, sending him crashing to the ground. The other’s fell silent. They dared not challenge.

Pepya ran. He had always been a fast runner. He had even been approached as a youngster in the hopes he could represent his home nation as a professional athlete.

A sharp pain fired in the back of his leg as a bullet clipped him. Since he hadn’t gotten away with anything they didn’t gun him down. The shot to his leg served as a painful warning. They chose not to pursue him.

The shadows of night were spreading across the horizon by the time Pepya returned home. His wife was in a terrible state of shock. She had kept herself on her feet as much as possible but she really should have been resting. ‘The General’ had sent for him. Pepya’s family didn’t like ‘The General’. They didn’t trust him. Pepya had tried to explain that their desperation was leaving them with very little choice.

‘The General’ had set up one of the few stable buildings left in town. It was were the bank had been. Those who used to work with the bank had either joined ‘The General’ or had been shot dead on the streets out front. ‘The General’ laid claim to the money. The people of the town had were forced to turn to him for loans.

Pepya was walking with a limp. Two boys in their early teens guarded the door of the bank. When they spotted him approaching the eldest called inside, “He’s here!”

Pepya climbed through the gaping hole, left over damage from rogue military manoeuvres in the town.

‘The General’ seated at a large oak desk that rightfully belonged to the bank manager. He wore the full military regalia complete with medals that had never been earned.

“You have had quite an adventure today, haven’t you?” ‘The General’s’ voice boomed. “I heard you tried to lift a box from a merchant ship.”

Pepya nodded in acknowledgement of the statement.

“Do you know who that ship belonged to?”

“They were a lot more guarded than I had first thought. They shot at me,” Pepya explained, avoiding the question.

‘The General’ stood. He threw his chair back and slammed his fists on the table. “That ship belonged to Admiral Bullbrand. Do you have any idea what you have done?”

Instant shots of adrenaline fired down all four of Pepya’s limbs. He began to shake. He didn’t know Admiral Bullbrand but his reputation was wide spread. “I … I didn’t know until it was too late,” he stammered. “I never took anything.”

‘The General’ grunted. He turned to the television behind him and pushed the play button on a video message that was already loaded.

“I received this message ten minutes ago,” he explained.

On the screen appeared the image of the Admiral. He wore a vibrant red blazer which gave a wildness to the piercing blue of his eyes. His sharp chin was held up as he glared at those the message was intended for.

“This morning I received word that an individual from one of the local towns attempted steal from one of my supply ships. I’m sure resourceful gentlemen such as yourselves agree that this can not be tolerated. The cheeky little fellow escaped with nothing more than a scraped knee but rest assured this is not the last you have heard of this.” Bullbrand leaned closer to the camera. He gave a sharp intake of breath and his narrow lips tightened. “If I were to let this go then word might spread. Before we know it we have anarchy on our hands and the beautiful beaches of your coast would run red with blood.” Admiral Bullbrand sat back again and took a momentary pause. He ran his forefinger and his thumb across his chin. “To show that theft from one of my ships will not be tolerated I will be with you within forty eight hours. I will see to the punishment of those responsible personally.”

The video message cut. Pepya was finding it a struggle to breathe. He felt two grown men grip his arm.

“You heard what the Admiral said.” ‘The General’ spoke calmly. “If we let you go and you flee we will all be destroyed. You have brought Him here. You have brought death to our shores.”

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Over 9000 likes!!!!

Over 9000 likes!!!!

Conflict creators Leo St Paul and Vivika Widow celebrate 9000 likes on Facebook by sampling first sample of the front cover for the first novel in the Conflict series!

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